2011's Most Frequently Banned Books

I checked out bannedbooksweek.org to see the top 10 most challenged titles. Odds are you will recognize (and love) more than one book on this list.

1.  ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle 
Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

Barbara Jones: "Lauren Myracle has been banned many times before and considers it a source of pride. This book in particular has been challenged because a lot of people are worried that it is written in text messaging style. The fear is kids will forget how to read and write proper English."

2. The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence

4.  My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

Barbara Jones: "This is a picture book, and most people look at it and find it extremely tasteful and written in a way that children can follow along if they have a mother that is expecting."

5.  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

6.  Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint

7.  Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

8.  What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit

9.   Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit

10.  To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: offensive language; racism

Barbara Jones: "To Kill a Mockingbird shows up on the list quite a lot. It is banned because of offensive language and racism, but in my experience, people come away from the book feeling inspired to fight racism, not participate in it. The book is such an inspiration to so many people."


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Celebrating Banned Books Week with the ALA

30 Years of Liberating Literature

Banned Books Week is upon us, and this year the American Library Association (ALA) is celebrating the “30 Years of Liberating Literature.” This month, September 30 – October 6, 2012, grab one of your favorite challenged books and celebrate our right to read.

Barbara Jones, Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the ALA Headquarters in Chicago, told me more about this year’s plans.

50 State Salute to Banned Books Week
“We invite all fifty states to discuss their support for Banned Books Week,” Jones said. “There are funny and inspiring stories, and it is wonderful to see we have support across the country. In spite of the politics going on at the moment, there is still a groundswell of support for intellectual freedom.”

Virtual Read-Out
The 30th anniversary has inspired a slew of writers, celebrities, librarians, and readers to join the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out. The ALA has created a YouTube channel where you can celebrate reading with hundreds of others.

“Each year we give out awards to six libraries and organizations to do their own banned books read outs,” Jones told me. Ask your local bookseller or library if they are participating!

Timeline: 30 Years of Liberating Literature
The ALA has put together an interactive timeline featuring challenged and banned books. “Every day, people can look at books that have been challenged in the past 30 years and see why they were deemed problematic,” Jones explained.

Below are a few books that were banned by various school districts, teachers, and other organizations:

·       1982: Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

·       1983: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

·       1991: Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

·       2000: Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey

·       2009: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Banned Websites Awareness Day
Many public schools, and even some public libraries, place restrictions on what type of content users can view on the Internet. While it makes sense to block certain kinds of sites (for both children and adults), these restrictions can cause problems for researchers.

“Banned Websites Awareness Day is October 3rd,” Jones said. “We focus on how websites in schools are being blocked so students can’t do proper research. This is another kind of barrier to access. We find that as we move into the age of social media, more and more barriers are being put up and we want to draw people’s awareness to that.”

Chicago Humanities Festival
“This year, we have a slot at the Chicago Humanities Festival,” Jones enthused. “It the largest festival of its kind in the city of Chicago. We will have a speaker and we are sponsoring an event. We hope that this will come an annual part of Banned Books Week.”

30 years later, Banned Books Week has spread around the world to Finland, Norway, and Britain—to name a few. “People are extremely interested and we’re pleased to see it becoming a worldwide phenomenon,” Jones said.

Want to get involved in your community? Check out the events in your state, or participate in any of the programs listed above. To learn more about Banned Books Week, visit www.bannedbooksweek.org or www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek.



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Jillian Bergsma is a writer and contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English. She welcomes any questions or comments on her articles at jbergsma (at) bookpublishing.com.